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Featured Blu-ray Review: Jackie Chan 4-Film Collection

November 28th, 2011

Jackie Chan 4-Film Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Jackie Chan has made more than 100 movies during his career, which has spanned six decades. (He started out as a child actor before moving to stunts and then becoming a leading action star.) He's made quite a few of those films here, but mostly worked in Hong Kong. Almost all of those Hong Kong films were imported here, with mixed results. (Films were edited, names were changed, dubbing was dubious, etc.) This week, four such films are coming out on a single Blu-ray disc, the second such release from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment I'm reviewing this week. Are any of the films worth checking out? And is the overall entertainment value of the Blu-ray worth the price.

Operation Condor

The movie begins with Jackie Chan playing Jackie, a.k.a. Asian Condor. He's a Treasure Hunter / Secret Agent, whom we meet exploring a cavern filled with massive jewels. When he tries to take one, he notices the natives are watching him. They don't mind if he takes the gems, but they freak out when he drinks the water of the sacred spring. It turns out drinking the holy water means he has to marry the princess. She's not his type, so he flees. He manages to get away, but drops the gems in the process.

When he gets back to Spain, he is informed of his new mission. During World War II, when the Nazis were retreating from northern Africa, they buried tons of stolen gold in a secret base buried under the Sahara Desert. It is Jackie's job to go to the Sahara and find the gold. However, while he normally works alone, he will have to work with Ada, an expert on the area. In fact, she's in charge. One of the first things they do is try and track down any living relatives of the 19 men assigned to the base. They find Elsa, the granddaughter of the commander, and rescue her from an attack. They are not the only ones looking for the gold. Since Elsa might have information that will prove useful, she also joins the mission, even though Ada doesn't trust her. Finally, while exploring the desert they come across Momoko, who is best described as a desert hippy. Now that their party is complete, they continue on the mission.

This is one of the first Jackie Chan movies I saw, so there is some nostalgia here. Even with that bias, I think it is fair to say this film is one of his best of that era. (In the mid-1980s, he returned to Hong Kong after failing to find success in Hollywood. I consider this the beginning of the era I'm talking about. It lasted til Rush Hour was made.) It combines action, adventure, comedy and, of course, amazing stunts in a way that enhances all aspects of the movie. If you like Jackie Chan movies, or Treasure Hunter movies in general, it's absolutely worth checking out.

It's not perfect and this version is the re-cut / redubbed 90-minute version, but you won't find the original here, unless you import it.

Operation Condor II

Operation Condor II was actually made before Operation Condor was made. In fact, the full name of the two movies are Armor of God and Armor of God II: Operation Condor. Because of that, there's little continuity between the two movies.

Jackie Chan again plays Jackie, but this time he starts out as a former Rock Star turned mercenary Treasure Hunter. His bandmates were Alan (Alan Tam) and Lorelei (Rosamund Kwan), but when the pair got married, he left the band and started his new life. At the beginning of the film, Jackie grabs a sword that was one of five pieces of the Armor of God. It should fetch a high price on the market, but there's a dangerous cult that is also looking for the sword. The cult plans to kidnap Lorelei to force Jackie to turn over the sword. However, before Jackie can get the ransom, he sells the sword to May Bannon (Lola Forner) for $400,000. When Jackie gets back to his hotel, Alan is there waiting to tell him what happened to Lorelei. Alan asks Jackie to help, but Jackie is still upset over how he was treated before. Eventually he agrees to help save Lorelei, but first they will have to get the sword back.

When they go to Mr. Bannon asking for the sword back, Mr. Bannon doesn't believe the kidnapping story for a second. When Alan is caught trying to steal the pieces of Armor from Mr. Bannon, Jackie comes up with a plan. He will use the three pieces Mr. Bannon has to get to the cult and they steal the two that the cult has. This way they get Lorelei back and Mr. Bannon gets all five pieces of the Armor of God. At first he says no, but May convinces him otherwise, as long as she is put in charge of the mission.

This movie was made in 1987 and it is one of the first of the era of Jackie Chan films I talked about above and you can tell. It's a good movie, but it is not as polished as the sequel was. It has some pacing issues, the stunts are not as intricate, the balance of humor and action is a little off. It's arguably the weakest of the four films. On the other hand, it is still worth watching.

Project A

This film takes place during the colonial era in Hong Kong. Jackie Chan plays a sailor, Dragon Ma, with the Marine Police. The Marine Police have suffered a number of setbacks with their fight against the pirates. This has cost the overall police a lot of money, which has resulted in the street cops not getting a raise in two years. This in turn has created a lot of animosity between the two forces culminating in a barroom brawl. After the marine police ships are sabotaged, the plan to chase after the pirates, Project A, is shut down and all of the sailors are turned into street cops. This includes Dragon Ma. The training is quite rigorous, especially since the person in charge was the main person Dragon fought in the brawl, Hong Tin-tsu.

Meanwhile, we learn that the pirates are working with a crime boss in Hong Kong, and that they have someone on the inside of the police force to help them out. Despite their initial animosity, Dragon Ma and Hong Tin-tsu have to find who that inside man is and catch the pirates at the same time. Trying to go after corrupt cops leads to Dragon being booted off the force, which is when he runs into Zhuo Yifei, a.k.a., Fats, a former friend of Dragon and a thief. He wants to work with Dragon to recover the guns. Fats gets the guns, Dragon gets the police traitor and everyone's happy. ... Well, not quite.

This is the earliest film on this Blu-ray, but it is also arguably the best. It has some of the best stunts in his career, including one particularly impressive one that is an homage to Safety Last, a classic silent film era movie. Because it is a period piece, the movie has to rely more on physical stunts and less on car chase. (Although there is an amazing bicycle chase halfway through the movie.) It too balances the action and the humor quite well (although it is the re-cut version, so there's less of the latter than in the original). It doesn't quite have the pageantry as some period pieces, but it makes up for it with sheer entertainment.

Project A2

After defeating the pirates and killing their leader in the first movie, Dragon Ma becomes the target for revenge from the remaining pirates. Meanwhile, a cop has been paying poor men handsome sums to commit crimes while he and his men are in the area, so they can arrest them and get their names and faces in the papers. Dragon Ma gets a new assignment to help clean up a precinct where the cops have been abusing their powers. Worse still, there is a crime lord in the area and the cops refuse to do anything about it out of fear. Dragon Ma's early successes just make him a bigger target to the criminal element, and it isn't long before they frame him for theft. And then the Chinese revolutionaries show up!

Wow, this movie has it all. In fact, the plot is overstuffed, to say the least. This does hurt the film a bit, as the number of characters and plot threads is a little too much and it gets in the way of the action. It's still a great movie and in the top third of Jackie Chan's career. I do like Operation Condor a bit better, but nostalgia might have something to do with that.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray. The technical presentation is mixed, to be polite. Given the age and the relatively small budgets of these films, you can't expect crystal clear images. At times they look quite good, but there are other times when the image is surprisingly soft, to the point where I wondered if an upconverted DVD would look better. Other times there was obvious print damage. Sometimes there were both. The audio was generally clear, but the tracks are uncomplicated and don't feature a lot of range or depth. It's a bargain Blu-ray. But what a bargain. All four movies on one Blu-ray disc for just $11.

The Verdict

I have just reviewed and posted From Dusk Till Dawn Trilogy Set - Blu-ray, which is very similar in format to this Blu-ray. However, it really only had one movie that was worth owning, plus it cost $20. On the other hand, the Jackie Chan 4-Film Collection - Blu-ray has four movies that are all worth owning and costs just $11. Sure, I would prefer to pay more to get more, but it is impossible to argue against that price.

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Filed under: Video Review, Operation Condor